by Ozzie Nogg
Friedel Academy’s fifth annual Tribute Celebration Dinner is set for Sunday, May 20, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Beth El Synagogue. Using the theme Look How We’ve Grown, the event honors Helen and Arnold “Tuffy” Epstein, Ron Giller and Debbie and Lloyd Roitstein. “Ten years ago, with our enrollment of 18 kids, Friedel was small but hopeful on the landscape of Omaha Jewish education,” said Debbie Denenberg, a dinner co-chair. “Next year we’ll welcome over sixty students, and much of our success and impact on the Jewish community is due to the involvement of our honorees.”
According to Denenberg, “This group has given so much of themselves over the years. Helen as a valued hands-on teacher’s aid at Friedel and Tuffy as our volunteer music and instrumental instructor. Debbie Roitstein helped put together the Friedel database, and Lloyd is President of the Friedel Board — for the second time. Ron Giller, our retiring principal, was with us for four years marked by impressive growth. Today, Friedel is bursting out of our space, and we’re working closely with the Jewish Federation of Omaha on a plan to gain more classrooms and a larger common area. Soon we’ll break ground on an expansion, and the Reikes Museum — a gem currently nestled beside Friedel — will be moved near the front entrance of the JCC for all to enjoy. The May 20 dinner is our chance to celebrate fabulous Friedel and recognize some of the community members who helped us reach this day.”
Lloyd Roitstein became a Friedel booster in 2000, after being recruited to sit on the Board of Trustees. “I immediately fell in love with the school,” he said. “To watch Jewish children have fun while learning and to see the love they had for faculty and fellow students was — and is — so amazing. It fills my heart with such joy and hope for the future of our children. My wife Debbie has supported my efforts and was involved in the annual fundraising campaign for many years. To watch the school grow has been a labor of love for both of us.”
According to Helen Epstein, “I’m not sure how many people in our community realize what a fantastic teaching staff Friedel has. You expect educators to have passed the required course work, but what impresses me about Friedel is that the teachers are extremely competent in their specific areas, and are also caring and compassionate. It’s one thing to have all of the education courses down pat, but it’s quite another to have the soul to be a teacher.” Tuffy Epstein introduced the instrumental music program to Friedel in 1996. “With the help of Marty Ricks and the Jewish Federation of Omaha Foundation, we were able to put together musical instruments, books and stands to create a program for 4th 5th, and 6th grades,” Tuffy explained. “Now Friedel has a string program in addition to the band instrument program. The school integrates both general and Judaic studies, and Omaha is very fortunate to have such a well-rounded Day School.”
Nancy Rips is emcee for the evening which kicks off with Spirits, Schmooze & Silent Auction from 5:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. Auction proceeds will benefit Friedel students. “Delicious dinner service provided by Star Catering and Chef Mike Aparo begins at 6:30 p.m.,” Denenberg said, “followed by an engaging program. We promise to say ‘Shalom’ at 8:30 p.m.”
Serving with Debbie Denenberg as event Co-Chairs are Steve and Tippi Denenberg, Bob and Kim Goldberg, Les and Helen Kay, Alan and Debbie Kricsfeld, Phil and Erika Lucoff, Eric and Julie Phillips, Bruce and Linda Potash, Lloyd and Debbie Roitstein, Aaron and Judy Rosenfeld, Jack and Helene Shrago, Jeffrey and Sherry Taxman, Jeremy and Annette Wright. For Reservations, contact Debbie Kricsfeld at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402.393.2714.